Geek Review: Death Wish

Eli Roth’s remake of the old vigilante movie Death Wish with Bruce Willis was originally meant to come out last fall.  But then there was a mass shooting that was all over the news and the movie was pushed back to March.  And then there was another mass shooting that was all over the news and…well, the movie still came out.

Now, normally, I prefer not to discuss politics here at Gabbing Geek for reasons that are personal.  But then a movie like Death Wish comes out, and it’s impossible to ignore the politics of the movie.  And I may not want to discuss politics, but I do teach argumentation, and I can and will discuss a bad argument when I see one.And essentially, this Death Wish reminded me of the really bad argument at the core of many pro gun arguments, namely that a good guy with a gun will beat a bad guy with a gun.  That’s only true in the movies.

And let’s face it, this is the best example possible of that in action.  Bruce Willis is the prototypical “good guy” since he’s an ER doctor who, in the opening minutes, will put the same amount of effort into saving the life of a cop who was shot as the man who shot him, also in the hospital for a gunshot.  There are a lot of shooting victims in Willis’ Chicago (of course its Chicago), and various talking heads discussing high shooting incidents even before thieves break into the house of Willis’ Dr. Paul Kersey and shoot Paul’s wife and daughter.  Paul’s wife dies, his daughter goes into a coma, and playing by the rules with the cops gets him nothing.  Then, after taking his wife’s remains down to her family farm in Texas (of course its Texas), his father-in-law gives a little speech about how cops are unable to really protect anything, so a man (no doubt with a gun) has to protect his own family and household or else he isn’t a man.

The script plays a lot with the concept of manhood in a very conservative way.  The media is useless.  Cops could do better if people told them stuff, but the cops in the movie seem more intent in bringing down the otherwise law-abiding vigilante than finding the criminals whose acts made him a vigilante in the first place.  There’s even a comical (not really) scene of one of the detective’s trying a gluten free, organic snack bar (of course its gluten free and organic) and finding it disgusting.  Even if the politics of the movie doesn’t come across as too heavy handed for someone in the audience, the movie itself is rather flawed.  Vincent D’onofrio is essentially wasted in the role of Paul’s ex-con brother Frank.  In another movie, he’d be the main villain, someone the audience and the characters know who turned out to be bad.  Here, he’s just wasted in a nothing role.  The ending comes across as too pat, and while Roth does try to give the opposing side a voice, the movie clearly favors Willis’ Paul as he guns down various criminals and gets away with it.

My understanding is the novel the original movie was based on clearly made the lead character out to be an unhinged psychopath, something all the movie versions essentially gloss over to show him in the right.  Something like that might make for an interesting movie.  He can still essentially get away with it, but the moral ambiguity would make for a more complex and potentially rewarding film.  As for this one, it does have Willis’ charm and the audience I saw it with seemed to find it hilarious though I didn’t find much of it all that funny, but that doesn’t get it much from me.  Five out of ten ice cream men.

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